Children in conflict zones and imperialism

yemen starving child4

Children in conflict zones are one of the most affected “parties” in today’s world. They, especially children from the poor-households pay the most.

A recently released report – Stop the War on Children (2019) – by the Save the Children, UK highlights many facts related to the children in conflict zones. It’s a commendable effort in defense of children.

The report presents many facts related to the problem – conflict. It’s an eye-opener for all – parents and guardians, teachers and activists, politicians and policy makers, and people living peacefully in areas far-away from armed conflict.

The facts tell: Much of the time – a brutal reality; greedy and powerful actors’ brutal moves on the chessboard of geopolitics.

The report has tried its best to stand on a sound methodology and rely on data sources considered reliable. It has estimated many figures. It’s an effective learning material.

The report tells: “Powerful international actors have influence over the war [in Yemen].”

“In this particular case”, the report says, “it is likely that the weapon used was not built in the country whose air force dropped it, nor in the country where it landed, but in a third country that profited from its sale. The commission of this potential grave violation was facilitated by international actors.”

It – Yemen – is not the only case. In all conflict zones, areas defined by the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO),   within 50km of where one or more conflict events took place in a given year, within the borders of a country, the picture is broadly the same. The condition of the children in all the conflict-affected areas is the same.

The report reveals a startling fact: “The number of children living in conflict-affected areas has increased drastically since the end of the Cold War, significantly outpacing population growth, even though the number of countries experiencing armed conflict has remained stable.” [“The number … outpacing population growth”! Mr. Malthus, the plagiarist by […] profession, as Marx has identified the economist, has to think over the development.]

In support of the claim, the report says: “Today’s figure of 420 million is more than twice as high as at the end of the Cold War.”

Therefore, the question comes: Who are these “powerful international actors” having “influence over the war”, and over other wars? Who produce the weapons, and who trade with weapons? Who profit from trading with weapons?

And, to bring in devils of death in the lives of the children, the so-called Cold War is not needed. The Cold War-story is part of history, and a material to learn about imperialist strategies and tactics.

But powerful international actors are there; and they are enough to call in the merchants of deaths and destruction in regions.

These powerful actors are not a few handfuls of persons engaged with weapons production and trading. These powerful persons are not a few handfuls in the world of finance capital fueling the weapons business.

Along with these persons in the spheres of weapons and finance capital, there are parties in the politics- and geopolitics-spheres, and in the MSM – the “great” mainstream media. They are connected. They have their system; they have built up the system; and the name of the system is imperialism, the name the Save the Children report avoids to utter. And, the system is driven by a single hunger: endless stream of profit with ever-increasing rate.

The payment is made by the people in lands under the shadow of the system, not only in conflict zones. Children are especially vulnerable in this situation.

The conflict zones have not cropped up suddenly, spontaneously and accidentally. These were built up in an organized way. These were selected through painstaking research – potentials, economic and political. Proxies were organized and nourished. It took years to complete the process, from area and proxy selection, foe identification, proxy organizing and training to start the conflagration. The MSM extends its services to this “noble” effort, which it identifies, in cases, as “struggle for democracy”.

A number of these conflicts are identified by research circles as “Resource Wars”. It’s easy to identify in such an easy way, as there are simple one-dimensional data without connections, like this: “OPEC cashed $650 billion for 11.7 billion barrels of the oil it sold in 2006, compared with $110 billion in 1998, when it sold a similar quantity of oil at much lower prices.” (David G Victor, “What resource wars?”, The National Interest, November 12, 2007) Twelve years later, the same type of data, partial and isolated, will be cited and a single part will be mentioned. But the system – imperialism – will not be identified by the MSM and a major part of academia. A group of NGOs also will not identify imperialism.

A few of the conflicts are identified as “War for Oil” or “War for Diamond” or “War for cobalt/coltan/ tin/tantalum/tungsten/water”, and of similar nomenclature. But there are relations embedded in mode of production/loot of resources and war. “The close relation between war and natural resources is of long standing.” (William K. Tabb, “Resource wars”, Monthly Review, January 1, 2007)

A few of these are now-a-days dissected as “because of climate crisis”. But the main reason – capitalist/imperialist system – is not identified by the mainstream discourse.

The toll the system takes is ionospheric: More than five million people around the world were killed in conflicts during the 1990s. (Michael Renner, “The Anatomy of Resource Wars”, Worldwatch Institute, 2002) “The 20th century”, writes Eric Hobsbawm, “was the most murderous in recorded history. The total number of deaths caused by or associated with its wars has been estimated at 187m, the equivalent of more than 10% of the world’s population in 1913.” (The Guardian, “War and peace”, February 23, 2002) “More familiar is the erosion of the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. The two world wars of the first half of the century involved the entire populations of belligerent countries; both combatants and non-combatants suffered. In the course of the century, however, the burden of war shifted increasingly from armed forces to civilians, who were not only its victims, but increasingly the object of military or military-political operations.” (ibid.)

And, “[d]uring 1990–2001 there were 57 major armed conflicts in 45 locations.” (UNDP, Human Development Report 2003, “Violent conflict and the goals”, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 2003) The UNDP report said: “[S]ince 1990 conflicts have killed as many as 3.6 million people and injured many millions more. Particularly tragic is that civilians, not soldiers, are increasingly the victims — accounting for more than 90% of deaths and injuries. Shockingly, children account for at least half of civilian casualties.” (ibid.)

Therefore, it’s a worldwide business – the business of conflict and death. Without traders, this business cannot move. These death-traders’ group is composed of banks, companies trading with oil, non-oil minerals, timber, industries like steel, aircraft, shipbuilding, a type of politicians, diplomats and generals, the MSM, and a part of academia. A few in this group are owners while a few are on the owners’ payroll. “Since in the international sphere”, writes Paul Sweezy, “the interests of capital are directly and quickly translated into terms of state policy, it follows that these antagonisms assume the form of conflicts between states and thus, indirectly, between whole nations.” (The Theory of Capitalist Development, Principles of Marxian Political Economy, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1964) Borrowing from Sweezy’s discussions on militarism, it can be said: “The munitions magnets have a direct interest in the maximum expansion of military production; not only do they benefit in the form of state orders but also they are afforded safe and lucrative outlets for their accumulated profits. Hence it is these elements of the capitalist class which take the lead in calling for an aggressive foreign policy.” (ibid.)

So, writes Michael T. Klare, “none has so profoundly influenced American [US] military policy as the determination to ensure US access to overseas supplies of vital resources. As the American economy grows and US industries come to rely more on imported supplies of critical materials, the protection of global resource flows is becoming an increasingly prominent feature of American security policy.” (Resource Wars, The New Landscape of Global Conflict, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2002)

Many earlier works also relate war to control over natural resources. These include A Study of War (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1942) by Quincy Wright, The Economic Causes of Modern War: A Study of the Period: 1878-1918, (Mofatt, Yard, and Company, New York, 1921) by John Edwin Bakeless. Fourteen of the 20 major wars, Bakeless identified, were related to conflict over resources: “The rise of industrialism has led to the struggle for […] raw materials.” Thus, conflict zones and tension zones, areas tension being built up, crop up.

Today, there are proxies – mercenaries, armed and unarmed, recruited from the area of imperialist intervention/conflict/targeted for intervention, and engaged with a banner of political slogans like “democracy” designed by imperialism. These proxies play role in conflict zones/tension zones.

There are companies trading with armaments. “[T]he business of war remains a good one. The 100 largest arms producers and military services contractors recorded $395 billion in arms sales in 2012. Lockheed Martin, the largest arms seller, alone accounted for $36 billion in such sales during 2012.” (Time, “Here are the 5 companies making a killing off wars around the world”, by Vince Calio and Alexander E.M. Hess, March 14, 2014) The Time report said: “Arms sales have remained concentrated among the same small number of companies for more than a decade. The top 10 companies have largely remained in place because industry consolidation in the 1990s made them dominant players […].”

Three years later, another report said: “National security and warfare are big business. The U.S. government spent $598.5 billion, over half of its discretionary budget, on military and weapons technology in 2015. The 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies across the globe sold an estimated $370.7 billion worth of arms that year.” (, “20 companies profiting the most from war”, by Samuel Stebbins and Thomas C. Frohlich, May 31, 2017) The report said: “U.S.-based companies continue to dominate the defense market, a trend that is unlikely to change meaningfully any time soon.” So, the story appears same: war-profit-war, a circuit of profit where war is investment by the profit seekers.

Today, a group of companies directly engages armed gangs in areas of competition to grab resources triggering hot conflicts. These gangs sometimes don cloak of political slogans. Studies are there on the issue.

And, now, there are private companies contracted to carry on war; and, the companies are for profit.

And, today, there are moves to privatize war – an unmasking of imperialist war. Thanks should go to imperialism for unmasking itself.

All are for profit.

And, the victims? The people in the war-ravaged lands, the children in the war-demolished countries.

Thus, it’s found:

“There are 639 million small arms in the world, or one for every ten people, produced by over 1,000 companies in at least 98 countries.

“16 billion units of ammunition are produced each year – more than two new bullets for every man, woman and child on the planet.

“It is estimated that 80-90 per cent of all illegal small arms start in the state-sanctioned trade.

“In World War One, 14 per cent of total casualties were civilian. In World War Two, this grew to 67 percent. In some of today’s conflicts, the figure is even higher.

“One third of countries spend more on the military than they do on health-care services.

“An average of US$22 billion a year is spent on arms by countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. Half of this amount would enable every girl and boy in those regions to go to primary school.

“[I]n the same minute in which one person dies from armed violence, 15 new arms are manufactured for sale. (Amnesty International, Oxfam, IANSA Control Arms Campaign Media Briefing: key facts and figures, October 9, 2003)

And, children – the future, the future of humanity – find themselves as victim while the villain – capital that moves brutally to “heroically” conquer and control everything on the earth – carries on its war business.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.


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